Bangalore: Indian scientists have successfully mimicked nature to heal the human body while developing their latest nano-bioceramics, materials that can be used to repair bone and tooth defects, and could even grow bones to heal fractures.
Researchers at the National Metallurgical Laboratory, or NML, in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, have developed a technology to produce a new nano-bioceramic called biphasic calcium phosphate that, besides being compatible to the body, can also stimulate the formation of bone tissue.
NML, a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research laboratory, is now transferring the technology to Chennai-based Eucare Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd, which recently commercialized an earlier nano-bioceramic variety called hydroxyapatite developed at NML.
“We are in the final stages of technology transfer for biphasic calcium phosphate, which is a first-of-its-kind product in the country,” said S. Sridhara Rao, managing director of Eucare.
Of all the calcium salts for orthopedic use, precipitated hydroxyapatite comes closest to apatite—a type of mineral—present in bone. “Our bones are virtually a self-assembly of nano-sized hydroxyapatite. Hence, we have exploited the concept of nature for the synthesis of bone tissue,” said Arvind Sinha, senior scientist at NML.
After developing a technology to produce porous hyrdroxyapatite, Sinha and his team have now produced a new biphasic material that comprises hydroxyapatite and tri-calcium phosphate.
“New biomimetic materials of this kind are some of the most immediate possibilities of nanotechnology that have high demand,” said T. Pradeep, professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, who has developed nanoparticles for water purification and other uses.
A technology-industry link will certainly lead to commercial products, he says, since there’s scope for immense variety in these goods.
The market is already receptive to these advanced materials because they can not only repair bone defects, but also be applied to muscle, bone and cartilage tissues, and worn-out body parts.
The global orthopaedic bio-materials market grew from $4.2 billion in 2005 to about $5.4 billion in 2007, according to New York-based private equity firm Healthpoint Capital.
The medical technology reports publisher MedMarket Diligence estimates the market will grow in double digits, reaching $10 billion by 2011.
Globally, such materials have gained importance as scaffolds for tissue engineering. “We are also building three-dimensional scaffolds that can be used for growing bones and tissues,” said NML’s Sinha.
He says it would be possible in less than five years to grow bones inside the body to heal fractures, making the now routine procedure of inserting metal rods redundant.
“I think it’d be possible to grow a good length bone—4 to 6 inches—in a span of a few months,” Sinha says.
And this is how it works: a nano-bioceramic is coated on a porous scaffold, permitting bone cells to grow into the scaffold as if it were normal bone, the scientist informs.
But growing bones is not the ultimate goal. NML researchers are already working with Hyderbad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology to see how cells, particularly stem cells, react with bioceramics. The vision clearly is to be able to grow organs one day.